Mercedes customers forced to use ‘B’ spec engines

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Let’s get one thing straight, the history of F1 is littered with manufacturers’ ‘works’ teams running an ‘A’ spec engine whilst their customers get a lesser performing alternative.

In 1993, McLaren were forced to run a ‘B’ spec Ford engine that had 35 HP less than the works Ford engine provided to Benetton which in turn had 45 HP less than the Renault powered Williams.

However, during the V8 era following engine homologation regulations, this practice became less prevalent and those watching the racing could be confident the cars with all Renault engines had the same basic power unit to propel them around the circuit.

Of course, this era saw the intensification of precise engine mapping, and though the architecture of the power unit could be identical from team to team, the engine mapping was not.

Significant performance gains could be found through this process, as Red Bull proved with their world beating partner Renault.

This year, Manor are running a ‘B’ spec Ferrari engine, allegedly the homologated version Maranello used for the entire 2014 season. For a team whose budget is tight, this offers a more cost effective option than running the latest engine spec.

This again is nothing new. Ferrari had for years offered previous year spec engines to customers. From 1997 to 2005, Sauber ran power units badged as ‘Petronas’ and in 2001 Prost did something similar with an ‘Acer’ engine originating from Maranello.

There was clearly some discussion in a recent F1 strategy group over the whole ‘B’ spec engine philosophy, couched as a cost saving measure.

Yet not everyone is happy with the return of ‘B’ spec engines.

Saubers Team Principal gave her thoughts on the matter, prior to the Singapore GP. “Ideally I don’t think you should have an option like this,” said Monisha Kaltenborn.

“We are trying to get people together and not creating an environment when you end up with A and B cars.

“It’s in a way distorting a little bit the competition or creating a competition in the competition. It’s not ideal.”

For Monza, Mercedes launched an upgraded engine using the final 7 development tokens they have for 2015. This was exclusive to their own cars and not offered to their customers.

Williams’ head of performance, Rob Smedley commented at the time, “Obviously the works Mercedes team has had a power unit upgrade which we would dearly love in the back of our car as well.

“That seems to have been a good step – Lewis was certainly going very quickly.

“We’ve got a new power unit to take before the end of the year.

The hope was clearly that they would be able to put the new development engine in the Williams car at the point when their drivers took their fourth and final engines for the year.

This weekend, the 6 Mercedes powered drivers who have not taken their fourth power unit – will do so. Rosberg and Hulkenberg have already fitted their fourth for the year.

But the news is that the customer drivers will not be getting the new spec engine Mercedes has run since Monza.

Apparently, Mercedes have been unable to produce enough parts to supply their customers with the upgraded version of their 2015 power unit.

Lewis Hamilton will be using “a fresh version of the ‘phase four’ development engine” introduced in Monza, according to Autosport.

Valtteri Bottas does not see any hidden agenda’s in the Mercedes decision. “It’s not frustrating because I really think that they would give us the best possible engine to try and beat Ferrari.

“There must be some reason behind it. I don’t know whether it’s reliability or what. But I trust them.

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24 responses to “Mercedes customers forced to use ‘B’ spec engines

  1. AMUS is reporting that the constraint is a lack of appropriate fuel from Petronas – bizarre, although they could require a fuel that has a very specific burn rate which may be difficult to achieve consistently!

  2. if you believe this then you are crazy. are mercedes saying that the great industrial juggernaut that constitutes their company and the race team of 1200 personnel cannot produce enough parts is ludicrous beyond the extreme. they have one and only one objective….to hand hamilton the title and nothing else matters.

    • First of all – around 500 people work at Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains in Brixworth building and developing power units for the Works team and customer teams. It’s quite possible that Mercedes could provide the new specification Power Unit to all the teams it supplies, however they probably do not have enough time to properly test new specification power units in high numbers or produce enough spare parts for trackside repairs. Thus works teams gets the new toys and the customer teams get the old power units as they are known quantity and spare parts will be in plentiful supply. Even if Williams got the new spec power units, they are still behind the Mercedes in terms of the chassis and aero. The time to get worked up over this is if Mercedes has two versions of it’s Power Unit in 2016 – A Spec for the Works team and B Spec for the customer teams.

      As for Mercedes aim ? It’s to win the Constructors title to show off it’s engineering excellence and to use the drivers title to sell cars. Lewis is a PR dream/nightmare depending on your view of him, and will get you attention. If Nico wants to be World Champion, he has only one thing and one thing only to do – Beat Lewis comprehensively on track and outscore him on the points front. So far he’s only shown flashes of being able to do that, he’s not done it on a consistent basis. You can cry conspiracy but there’s nothing like nobbling somebody to lose to cause a massive PR fallout that can damage a brands image quite extensively. Either Lewis crumbles or Nico does. It’s what it boils down to.

      • It’s about money – cost effectiveness. If man can build a Large Halidron Collider with tolerances of 3mm, this is no problem.

        It’s just too difficult to invest ridiculous amounts of money in. But it can be done.

    • Kenji: My thoughts exactly. Enough parts and fuel could have been produced to give the Mercedes customers the power unit upgrade. Let the customers take a chance with possible reliability if they want to. Mercedes want to keep it for themselves to make sure that the second championship in gotten for Lewis. If Mercedes win two championships and a some races, they get extra money per their contract with Bernie Ecclestone.

      • So why is it that Ferrari have yet to supply Sauber with their new spec power unit?

        You always seem to get angry when Mercedes does something that’s in their interest, whilst Ferrari and others do the same?

        • First of all, we’re discussing a Mercedes related subject. I have thoughts about the other teams doing things in their own interest too but we’re discussing Mercedes.

          The customer teams getting power units that are less horsepower than the “works” has been going on for years in Formula 1. If you’re a customer team, it will be a rare day in today’s F1 that you beat the “works” team or win a constructor’s championship.

          I know that Formula 1 is cyclical and basically survival of the fittest, which is how, the sport has been for years. What is different now in the sport severe economic problems, which threaten to cripple or destroy Formula 1 in the near future if they’re not addressed properly.

          The problem that I have with Mercedes is that their domination and absolute determination to stay in the leading position could put Formula 1 on the fast track to its death, as we all know it.

          Everything Mercedes are doing right now is driven by their contract with Bernie and the extra money they’ll get if they win 2 championships and some races and that includes not giving their customers the power unit upgrade. If Brackley and Brixworth really wanted it to happen, the parts and fuel would have bee made available to the customer teams. They want to make absolutely sure that they win the 2 championships.

          All of the teams need to start thinking a bit about the sport itself instead of only themselves or the sport may not exist. That reality is closer than everyone thinks it is.

          Giving the customer teams, especially the ones in the midfield and the back of the grid, the upgrades so that they can try and score more points so they can get more money to just survive as a team is what’s needed right now so the Formula 1 grid can survive.

          This is coming from someone who grew up wanting to be the head of Daimler. Now, I look at the brand in disgust.

          When there were attempts to bully me into silence recently, it was Toto Wolff, the Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport and Executive Director of Mercedes AMG Petronas, that started it.

          It has caused lots of problems for me that may not be able to be fixed. I’m having difficulties getting out of a bad situation that I’m trying and need to get out of because of it. I currently put in 21 to 23 hour days right now. I’ve lost opportunities that I really wanted so that I could eventually leave the United States. I’ve lost opportunities to have mentors because of all of this. I’ll get through it.

          • Thank you Mike. Toto Wolff starting it and all the unfixable problems couldn’t have come at a more worse time for me. Things have got to get better for me very soon.

  3. is this not as it should be?
    If F1 is the pinnacle of motorsport (is it really anymore?), why would manufacturers be forced to hold development back to ensure it can be split out evenly between customers?

    New teams using old units to impress on the hope of convincing some poor misguided manufacturer to back them, succeeding (hardly ever) or going bust. Or limping on heroically against all reason or hope. Isn’t that what F1 is all about? Or is it just about seeing how much money can be blown without winning anything by car manufactures with too much cash to burn like Ferrari/Toyota/Honda/Red Bull (don’t see many of them in the forecourt I must say – now Ferrari’s on the other hand).

    The Cinderella stories generate interest, who didn’t love the beautiful 7UP Jordan squeaking its way into the low points en route to near bankruptcy (Eddie Jordan, Mr Cinderella Man indeed). Ok, my favorite poor team will always by the unqualified success that was Pacific, but still….

    Maybe the problem is this model requires interest from manufacturerS (note for the FIA/FOM – the S is not meant to be silent)…one would think that would be easy enough to generate, I mean, global audience (not hiding behind pay wall), glamorous locations (Baku anyone – thats what happens when the true glamour tracks like Yeongam get pulled), thrilling wheel to wheel duels (em, oh yeah, nose to tail processions – but still, the logo’s are more visible that way), fabulous tracks that challenge both man and machine (who needs Spa or Monza when you can have Sochi, really?).
    Assuming some sensible steps like ensuring stability of technical regs so that manufacturers can have more than a 52 week plan, engines that contain, well, just engines might be a good idea?.

    oh, ya, I see the problem now! My argument seems ill thought out, off the cuff, inconsistent and a lacking substance…maybe I read it from a FOM press release at some point.

    to be concise (which is never as much fun), as a wise man once said, if you want to win the championship……. 🙂

    Or as an even wiser man once said (re poor teams taking B-spec engines)….nobody put a gun to their heads and forced them to sign the contracts 😀

    Ah dear…

  4. I’m puzzled as to why Lewis would need a new power unit, given he only used his 3rd in Monza, which was only 3 races ago.

    This is not really a power track, so why would they not make the switch in Austin, thus having each unit doing 4 races apiece?

    I smell foul play…..😉😉

  5. I must have misunderstood. I thought an engine by a manufacturer had to be homolgated. This year may be different as no date was set for the procees to be completed, but next year surely all engines by each particular supplier must be identical. So there cannot be an “A” spec and “B” spec engine. Or did I miss something?

    • Glad someone else has questioned this….two tier racing by stealth. Just another nail to the coffin.

    • Not quite, you can introduce a spec A or B – hardware wise

      Dunno how apparent is this for viewers generally, but software is free for everyone to use however they want. One engine manufacturer can supply software that detunes the engine (for reliability or whatever reasons) without any penalty from the FIA. The “no lower performance spec for customers” is applicable only on hardware, it can’t ban software detunning a PU if the suppliers wishes it (eg. it can be as easily done as setting a safer limit for knock or an energy function that’s slightly different for braking on a team vs another under pretext the fly-by-wire of the XX team brake is different). Ultimately you can optimise the system only if you design the PU for the car, take a slightly different approach to the BBW and the MGUK can’t recover as much energy for example, it’s as simple as that. Hence B-spec engine discussion makes little sense when looking at the overall picture.

      • Thanks for that. So it all boils down to the software. But then it is possible, surely, for a team to take the engine and write their own software and make it faster than the works team. Or is that very unlikely?

  6. It’s part of the deal, I have no problem with differences between factory and customer engines.

    I still think it’d be better if tokens were distributed according to results year after year than spread along equally. Starting at 1 token per GP, each race a manufacturer wins means a single less token the following season. Mercedes would have only had 3 this year. Renault, 16. Ferrari and Honda, 19. At least then we could expect some manufacturers to catch up without submitting anyone to unfair restrictions. In enough time all manufacturers should naturally reach healthy parity (as opposed to the artificial one form the V8 days).

  7. The engine layout and its specifics have to be homologated but does that apply to all the software that runs the whole thing ? How would the FIA control the software version running the engine ? Do customer teams have access to the software at all ?

    • They do control the software in the sense of the algorithm version, but not the mapping. Also software doesn’t necesarily need to be the same version on all cars and can be freely upgraded over time (no tokens)

  8. I see absolutely NOTHING wrong with DAMS/Carlin/ART/Penske/Andretti/Ganassi/ etc buying a 100% up to date chassis and engine or 2 for a season long assault on the F1 series. I simply cannot see the downside in allowing this to take place… should be way cheaper than building ur own shit, while not capable of equaling the A-Team entries.
    the above teams and more SHOULD in general be able to present a viable and respectable entry and results more capable than Caterham/Manor/HRT to date.rgibbs3885@gmail.com
    that equals more cars and closer results and better racing. seems like a win-win to me.
    what do you think??

  9. your application of WordPress is screwed to hell and back as it should have never included my email addy – even if I had been a dumb fuck and included it in the body of a post. I truly do not care if the above gets posted. I DO care that you rely on a known stupid program and fail to implement basic due diligence in it’s application and the failure to allow an edit feature prior to moderation approval.
    a little newbe kiddie IT punk is obviously NOT a non-transparent part of your newly non-existent Express Mortgage sponsored site…

  10. Bernie announces that for noise reasons teams can run non turbo 5 litre v8 v10 or v12 in 2016. Red Bull makes its own engine.

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